Nick Harris

About Nick Harris

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Nick Harris has created 67 blog entries.

Record there to be beaten?

It was the performances of Pecco Bagnaia in the first Sepang test and then Fabio Quartararo in Qatar that got me thinking; have any riders making their debuts in the MotoGP four-stroke era won first time out or even qualified on the front row?

The simple answer is no to the first question but yes to the second. One hundred and six riders have made their debuts in the premier class during this era, yet nobody has won first time out. Two, however, have qualified on the front row and one in pole.

Three Spanish riders have come closest first time out and finished on the podium. The first was Dani Pedrosa at his home grand prix at Jerez in 2006. Dani, racing the Repsol Honda for the first time after winning the 125cc and two 250cc world titles, finished second four seconds behind Loris Capirossi on the factory Ducati.

Two years later, another double 250cc World Champion Jorge Lorenzo made his MotoGP debut in Qatar. It was Ducati once again that won the race with Casey Stoner in the saddle. Lorenzo, on the factory Yamaha, was second five seconds down with Pedrosa third. Marc Marquez made his much-heralded debut in the premier class in 2013 with those 125cc and Moto2 world titles under his belt. Under the Losail International floodlights, he eventually finished third behind the Yamaha´s of Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. Marquez did go one better than his countrymen Pedrosa and Lorenzo by winning the world title first time out, however.

I would have thought more debutants would have qualified on the front row. Perhaps taking a big risk on that one important qualifying lap but it’s not the case. Those two riders who have qualified on the front row have suffered very different fortunes since those impressive performances. Lorenzo followed up a pole position at that opening round in 2008 with a brilliant second place. He went onto to win three MotoGP world titles and fancies his chances to make it four this season riding the factory Honda.

Alongside Lorenzo on the front row at Qatar in 2008 was British rider James Toseland. The World Superbike Champion, riding the Tech 3 Yamaha, made a sensational start to his MotoGP career. He qualified in second place and finished sixth in the race and looked set to make a big impact in the premier class, but it didn’t happen. Injuries forced him to retire to pursue a new career in the music industry and as a television pundit.

Bagnaia and Quartararo step onto the big stage for the first time under the spotlights this weekend after impressing in pre-season testing. Can they re-write the history books by winning first time out? It’s a very big ask and just check out the previous 106 riders who have tried. The last rider to win on his premier class debut was Max Biaggi with victory at Suzuka in 1998 on the two-stroke Honda but records are there for the beating.

By | March 7th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on Record there to be beaten?

NEVER SAY NEVER

THE INSIDE STORY OF THE MOTORCYCLE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

BY NICK HARRIS 

PUBLISHED IN HARDBACK BY VIRGIN BOOKS | 23rd MAY 2019 | £20.00 | ISBN 9780753553855 

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Motorcycle World Championships, the most dangerous and exciting sport in the world, legendary commentator Nick Harris, ‘The Voice’ of MotoGP, chronicles seventy years of drama, adrenaline, tragedy and celebration in a brand new book, Never Say Never. 

For 40 years Nick travelled the world reporting and commentating on MotoGP, and this rare privileged access has given him unparalleled insight into this incredible sport. From a motorcycle trip across Argentina the week before the Falklands war, to ignoring the apartheid travelling ban in South Africa, Nick has witnessed a changing world developing alongside the highs and lows of the greatest motorcycle races of all time. 

In a white-knuckle ride through the twists and turns of Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing, Nick Harris provides a new, mostly eye-witness account of the history of MotoGP, the battles and feuds both on and off the track, the remarkable personalities and the great tragedies of the sport from 1949 to present day. 

As a trusted insider, Nick got to know Valentino Rossi, Barry Sheene, Giacomo Agostini and Mike Hailwood as individuals. He saw feuds unfold, champions made and careers ended, and in Never Say Never, he shares the real stories behind the greatest legends of the sport. This is the book the motorcycling world has been waiting for. 

ABOUT NICK: 

Nick Harris has been a respected journalist, broadcaster and author for over 40 years. He is best known as a legendary television and radio commentator and presenter, presenting and commentating on the MotoGP World Championship for much of his career, attracting over 20 million viewers worldwide to each grand prix. When he announced his retirement in 2017, over 1.2 million fans tuned into his farewell video on Facebook, filmed with Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. Nick is the author of several books, including the bestselling biography of Barry Sheene. His great passion is Oxford United Football Club, having previously served on the board of Directors. 

Twitter: @NickHarrisMedia | Website: www.nick-harris.co.uk 

Pre-order Never Say Never here

FOR ALL MEDIA ENQUIRIES CONTACT PATSY O’NEILL AT EBURY PUBLISHING poneill@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk T: 020 8293 8783

 

By | March 7th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on NEVER SAY NEVER

COUCH POTATO

It’s amazing how much easier it is to commentate on a MotoGP™ race from your couch at home with a cup of tea in your hand. Why is it you see everything that is going on? Every pass, every mistake and every fastest lap just comfortably appears in front of you with such great clarity while in the confines of the commentary box with all the relevant facts and figures pinned on the wall around me, I could still miss things. I certainly now understand why viewers can get so annoyed and shout at the screen – Perhaps it’s that cup of tea that makes the difference. 

For the first time in 39 years I watched this year’s MotoGP World Championship from the outside and it was amazing experience for somebody who has been so involved for so long. It certainly made me realise what a truly unbelievable Championship it is. It’s absolutely made for the television viewer and very rarely have they switched over to watch its four wheel counterpart while any of the three Championship races have been on screen. 

Watching at first was so difficult but I got used to it and to the relief of the people around me stopped commentating from the couch by the time we got to Assen. I thought Dovizioso was going to win the title and just loved those battles with Marquez. I marvelled at Marquez’s ability to hang on and even pop his shoulder back into place when he didn’t. I so enjoyed watching that pure style of Lorenzo at last getting to grips with the Ducati and raised a glass to Rossi. Signing a new two deal with his 40thbirthday on the horizon, setting up a team that won the Moto2™ World Championship for Peko Bagnaia, cheering his step – brother on to his first grand prix win is the story of a true legend. I just wish he’d won in Malaysia. I celebrated that Moto3™ title with Jorge Martin after handing over so many Tissot Pole position watches to him over the years and woke up the neighbours celebrating Cal Crutchlow’s win in Argentina. I was sad to see the departure of Scott Redding and not just for those amazing haircuts. He’s done so much to increase the popularity of the sport in Britain since that 2008 win at Donington Park. Also the departure of the likeable Alvaro Bautista after an amazing career in all three classes.

Of course I missed so many things apart from the racing. Breakfast at Ducati, watching the football over a beer and discussing the prospects of the Cornish Pirates Rugby team at Alpine stars. The commentary box humour, checking how Oxford United have fared on my phone in the middle of the Qualifying press conference and of course the friendship and camaraderie that so long in the paddock brings.

Most of all I’ve missed that amazing feeling at 14.00 on a Sunday afternoon when the lights switched from red. That’s a unique moment that is such a privilege to have  experienced and can never be repeated.

By | November 23rd, 2018|Uncategorised|Comments Off on COUCH POTATO

Party time in Valencia

No World Championships to be decided this time round and so it’s party time in Valencia before the 2019 season gets underway on Tuesday. Enjoy Sunday night because by Tuesday morning those 19 Grands Prix this year are a thing of the past as the first test of the new season get underway. MotoGP™ can certainly never be accused of standing still but thank goodness the test does not start on the Monday as it used to. Plenty of sore heads out on the track, in pit lane and in the media centre on those best to be forgotten Monday mornings which would also include test rides on the MotoGP™ machines for selected members of the media causing more headaches for the teams and not caused by the night before.

This is the 20th Grand Prix to be staged at Valencia with that first race at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in 1999. The circuit has staged the final Grand Prix for the last 17 years making it the venue that has staged the final event on most occasions. The MotoGP™ title has been decided on four occasions in Valencia. Who will forget 2006 when Nicky Hayden clinched the title finishing third after Valentino Rossi had crashed out. The decency and sportsmanship of Nicky’s Dad Earl knocking on the door of Rossi’s motorhome to offer his condolences before returning to celebrate his son’s title. It was a total contrast in 2015. Never in the 69-year history of the sport has there been such a poisonous acrimonious build up to a race, let alone before one that would decide the title. Never has a race sparked so much global interest in the Marquez/Rossi war that resulted in the title going to Jorge Lorenzo. There was certainly no knocking on motorhome doors that time round. Marquez clinched his first MotoGP™ title at Valencia in 2013 and his fourth last year.

Beware this year’s World Champions Marc Marquez, Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin. There has never been a year when the three Championship winners have all won their respective races since the final round has been staged in Valencia.

Dani Pedrosa bows out of Grand Prix racing on Sunday at a circuit he has won more races than any other rider. Four MotoGP™ wins are joined by two 250s and one in the 125cc class. A final goodbye from Dani with a victory would certainly spark a big party. Not perhaps everybody in the fountain, hotel furniture in the swimming pool, Brazilian police being called with the hotel waterfall being diverted into the lobby and guns being fired into the ceiling of the Zoom Zoom club in Goiania in the hellraising non-social media days of the eighties and nineties but never the less one hell of a party to rightly celebrate a fantastic career.

By | November 16th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Party time in Valencia

So close

It was so so close to the absolute perfect day in Malaysia for a rider who has experienced so many in that amazing career. Four laps from the finish of the MotoGP™ race at the Shell Malaysia Grand Prix on Sunday Valentino Rossi was on course to experience a day that most sportsman at any level can only dream about.

His step brother Luca Marini had just won his first Grand Prix after victory in the Moto2™ race. Marini’s team-mate Francesco (Pecco) Bagnaia clinched the Moto2™ World title after finishing third in the same race and both riding for Rossi’s Sky Racing Team VR46 team. Could it get any better – yes was the answer because Vale himself was leading the MotoGP™ race as they flashed across the line at Sepang with four laps remaining. Just over 22km remaining on the red-hot tarmac before the 39 year old Italian would be celebrating his first win of the season to end a perfect day even by his incredible standards.

Nine World titles and 115 Grands Prix wins in 22 years of Grand Prix racing have taught Vale never to count his chickens, never presume in any circumstances in a sport that has a habit of wrecking the party just as you are putting up the decorations and the guests are about to arrive. Less than ten seconds after racing past his pit board telling him Marc Marquez was closing he went down at turn one in front of a sea of yellow flags in the Rossi grandstand.

The perfect day may have been ruined but this should take nothing away from the Sepang experience that is the perfect illustration on why the man from Tavulla has had a bigger impact and influence both on and off the track than any other rider in the 69-year history of the sport. Who else at 39 years old could lead a MotoGP™ race for so long in such sweltering conditions around one of the most demanding race tracks in the 19 race calendar? Who else would form his own team after being dismayed at the lack of young Italian talent on the world scene and then build a dirt track and ranch to train with the youngsters who have gone on to become World Champions? Who else could protect and deal with the publicity the arrival of his step brother in the World Championship generated and then help him become a Grand Prix winner.

Who else would have already announced his plans to carry on racing for at least two more years as he approaches that dreaded 40th birthday? Who else would just relish the fact that his protégés are now lining up to take him on in the ultimate MotoGP™ test with the latest World Champion Bagnaia joining Jack Miller next season in the Alma Pramac Ducati team?

There is nobody else because there is only one person and his name is Valentino Rossi.

By | November 9th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on So close

Early start

The sold-out signs are being printed for Sepang this Sunday as MotoGP™ mad Malaysia prepares for the penultimate round of the Championship. What a turn around. Remember those early days at Sepang. You could count the number of spectators in some of those vast grandstands with the amazing roofs. We would sit in the stand that towered above the back straight eating our hamburgers purchased from a deserted stall in the mall watching a practice session and we would be the only people there.

I first went to Sepang which is situated close to Kuala Lumpur International airport in 1999 to work at the Formula Car race and returned a year later for MotoGP™. The contrast was enormous with Kuala Lumpur buzzing about the arrival of Formula One at this state of the art glitzy shiny circuit and paying little interest in the bikes; so what happened to produce such a total transformation in two decades. Formula One has gone through dwindling crowds and interest and MotoGP™ has exploded.

The very nature of the two sports has helped with the pure excitement of close racing and overtaking on two wheels bringing the crowds flocking. You only have to stop at any set of traffic lights in Kuala Lumpur to realise just what a vast market Malaysia and the rest of the Far East is to the major motorcycle manufacturers. Ticket prices and facilities to suit the customers by the forward-thinking SIC Ceo Dato Razlan Razali has embraced all these facts while four times Sepang has witnessed the crowning of a new MotoGP™ World Champion, being the penultimate round definitely has its advantages. Finally, the adulation of Valentino Rossi that has lifted many a circuit into the black and a decent bank balance has never been more obvious.

The Doctor has won six times in Sepang on both Honda and Yamaha machinery and in the 500cc and MotoGP™ classes. Three times he’s clinched the MotoGP™ World Championship in 2003, 2005 and 2009 with his then team-mate Jorge Lorenzo winning the title at Sepang a year later although typically Rossi won the race and stole the limelight.

You could not imagine the total contrast in the facilities between Sepang and when we arrived for that very first Malaysian Grand Prix 27 years ago at Shah Alam. Full marks to the old circuit which ironically was situated near the old International airport before they both switched to pastures new but just as close. Shah Alam laid the very foundations for today’s success story staging seven Malaysian Grands Prix before Johor took over for a single year. Sepang hosted its first motorcycle Grand Prix in 1999 with Kenny Roberts victorious on the 500cc Suzuki.

The Sepang circuit will be jammed to the very rafters of those amazing grandstands on Sunday. It’s more like being at a massive football match with adrenalin fuelled noise, excitement and colour; that’s before the racing even gets underway. The only problem is that you have to leave the hotel an awful lot earlier than you ever did all those years ago.

A very small price to pay to enjoy a Grand Prix that is the perfect illustration of the MotoGP™ revolution that has transformed the sport over the last two decades.

By | November 2nd, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Early start

Should Ago and Vale start looking over their shoulders?

When Marc Marquez intimated at the weekend he has every intention of carrying on racing for at least ten years or more I reached for the MotoGP™ bible, the red book of statistics. The new Champion has a long way to go but should Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi start to get worried? We can’t predict what is going to happen to any of us in the next decade but if you follow the bible’s statistics the 25-year-old Spaniard could become a real threat to a couple of record breakers we never expected to be eclipsed.

When Marquez clinched his seventh World title with another masterclass at Motegi on Sunday those records continued tumbling. It was the third time he’d clinched the MotoGP™ title for his Repsol Honda team at Motegi; the home of Honda. The other two were in 2014 and two years ago.

Only Agostini and Rossi have won more premier class titles. It was Marquez’s fifth on Sunday to equal Mick Doohan’s record from the nineties. He’s closing in on Ago with eight and Vale on seven. It’s the next two statistics that show just what he has achieved and what he could go on to completely rewrite those history books we always thought were cast in stone.

Marquez is the youngest-ever rider to win five premier class World Championship titles, at the age of 25 years 246 days, taking the record from Rossi who was 26 years 221 days when he won his fifth successive premier-class title in 2005.

He is also the youngest rider of all-time to reach the milestone of seven World Championship titles across all classes, taking the record from Mike Hailwood who was 26 years 140 days old when he won his seventh title – the 1966 350cc world championship.

This is his seventh World title across all classes, five MotoGP™ and one apiece in Moto2™ and 125; the only Spanish rider with more world titles than Marquez is Angel Nieto who won thirteen World Championship titles, seven 125cc, six 50cc. He equalled the record of Doohan by winning the premier class title five times for Honda.

Will anybody ever eclipse Ago’s seemingly untouchable record of 122 Grand Prix wins with even Vale admitting it’s going to be tough because he’s still seven behind. Marquez is still way back on 69 but with 43 wins in just six years in the premier class another ten in the saddle could reap its rewards’.

A long way to go and Ago and Vale achieved those records riding two separate makes of machinery with both two–stroke and four stroke power. Agostini on MV Agusta and Yamaha and Rossi on Honda and Yamaha. Would Marquez also have to change machinery at some point to push the two legends?  Of course, it’s far too early for Ago and Vale to start looking over their shoulders but after witnessing the first 25 years of Marquez’s life, never say never.

By | October 26th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Should Ago and Vale start looking over their shoulders?

Home sweet home

He may say Barcelona, but the race is too early in the season and so there can be no better place for Marc Marquez to clinch his seventh World title on Sunday than at the home of Honda, the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan.

Motegi is an amazing place. A sprawling complex high in the wooded hills and virtually in the middle of nowhere some 100kms north east of Tokyo. A racing circuit surrounded by an Indy Style oval with a massive towering grandstand overlooking the proceedings from both. Two tunnels to let the road circuit wind beneath the oval are a unique feature but there is so much more to celebrate the success of Honda in all forms of world motorsport. A small speedway track, a trials course that has staged World Championship rounds and of course the Honda Hall of fame.

It was in 1954 a certain Soichiro Honda arrived at the TT races in the Isle of Man without so much as a sideways glance from anybody in the paddock. He announced that Honda would one day return because his dream was to take on and beat the finest motorcycles on the most famous venue in the world. Few took much notice at the time, but he returned five years later with the birth of that dream. Mr Honda was shocked at the speed and engineering prowess of the manufactures and especially the German NSU 125 and 250 cc superbly built bikes that were dominating the World Championships that year. He flew home knowing he had a mountain to climb and with a suitcase full of chains, carburettors and tyres.

A year later Honda started competing at the Mount Asama Volcano race located in a village at the foot of an active volcano. Like the TT riders started in pairs to race round the 19 km circuit track on a surface of compressed volcanic ash. Their main challenge, especially in the smaller classes, came from Yamaha and Suzuki. Nothing changed a decade later with the only difference it was now for a World title. In 1959 Honda returned to the TT but this time to compete in the 125 cc race. They went home to Japan with the Manufacturers trophy – the rest is history.

Over 750 Grands Prix wins in all five classes since their arrival in the 1959 125 cc World Championship says it all. Marquez has won five of his world titles on Honda powered machinery and with four rounds of the Championship remaining, he is 77 points in front of Andrea Dovizioso after that superb last couple of laps in Thailand. There is nothing more Ducati, Yamaha and Suzuki like more than beating Honda on their home ground. Last year Dovi brought Ducati success, Lorenzo and Rossi have won for Yamaha.

Who knows on Sunday and it’s that level of competition that inspired Soichiro Honda to embark on his dream nearly six decades ago. You can feel his very presence among those wooded hillsides every time you go to Motegi.

By | October 19th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Home sweet home

Contrasting fortunes

After witnessing yet another stunning performance by Marc Marquez just days after reading of Scott Redding’s departure to the British Superbike Championship I thought back to that youngest ever podium in the history of Grand Prix racing. It was the 125cc race at the 2008 British Grand Prix staged at Donington Park. It’s a story of contrasting fortunes.

It was a historic podium in so many ways. Redding won the race to become the youngster ever Grand Prix winner at the tender age of 15 years 170 days. Frenchman Mike Di Meglio was second on route to the 125 cc World title while in third place and looking even younger than Redding was a certain Marquez. It was the first time the Spanish teenager had stood on a Grand Prix podium and little did we realise what lay ahead. The average age of the three riders was just 17 years 29 days and it would have been considerably lower with Di Meglio pushing it up. He was the old man at that considerable age of over 20 years old.

Marquez went on to do what Marquez does and there will be even more after the Japanese Grand Prix next weekend. Di Meglio stepped up to the 250cc and Moto2™ classes before a couple of years in MotoGP™ while Redding broke plenty of records but just missed out on a world title after an eventful 11 years in the Grand Prix paddock.

Redding and Marco Melandri are the only two 15-year-old riders to win a Grand Prix race. The Donington Park win was the first British 125 cc winner since Chas Mortimer in 1973 and the first British solo class winner at the British round of the World Championship for 22 years. Redding is the only British Grand Prix winner in any class at Donington Park. Moving up to the Moto2™ class he continued to break the record and came so close to clinching the title in 2013, eventually finishing runner-up after a battle royal with Pol Espargaro.

His first Moto2™ win came at Le Mans in that Championship chasing year, making him the first British intermediate class winner since Jeremy McWilliams 12 years earlier. That win meant that he pipped a certain Barry Sheene to become the youngest British rider to win in two classes of Grand Prix racing and the first in 40 long years. He also won the British Grand Prix to become the first British winner at Silverstone since the return of the Grand Prix from Donington.

Redding’s much anticipated MotoGP™ career never quite took off despite two podium finishes in difficult conditions at Misano and Assen. In the end, it was inevitable he would move on.

MotoGP™ will miss so much about Scott Redding both on and off the track. He gave us success-starved British fans some real hope and great fun after such a barren time in the Grand Prix wilderness. He should be proud of that achievement as the youngest ever Grand Prix winner. A record that will surely remain with him forever.

By | October 11th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Contrasting fortunes

Fresh pastures

Don’t get me wrong. I still loved going to the likes of Mugello, Jerez and Phillip Island but I’d been there so many times that when a new circuit, and especially new country, appeared on the schedule it made life more interesting and in many case, a little bit more exciting.

I’m sure that’s just how everybody feels as they make their way to Thailand this week. Not only a new venue at the Chang International Circuit, but a new country in Thailand to stage a MotoGP™ race. ™

Thailand is the first new country to stage a MotoGP™ race since Turkey in 2005. Remember the week before we were in Australia and flew back over the Istanbul circuit from Melbourne, then flew back to Istanbul from London followed by a three hour drive to find first the circuit and then the hotel (that was a polite word for where we were staying).The Istanbul circuit was magnificent, especially watching the race winner Marco Melandri slide the Honda round the fast fifth gear right hander. The rest of the trip was more than a little scary but we survived.

Thailand is the 30th country to stage a World Championship event since the Championship started in 1949. We went to Malaysia for the first time in 1991 at the Sham Alam circuit which was close to the old Kuala Lumpur airport. I really did not know what to expect. Immediately we all loved KL. The food, the nightlife and the friendly people but Shah Alam offered a few worries for us westerners. They told me; although I assure you I never went in and checked that a python was asleep in the rafters when they opened the press office. Our office was an old shipping container, the lack of flushing loos was a major problem for anybody who’d overloaded on that spicy food while it was rumoured that the marshals would not help riders at a certain corner because the undergrowth was full of poisonous snakes. We survived but only just, especially with the spicy food problem.

Sometimes the problems going to a new country are a lot more serious and played on my conscious before our first trip to South Africa in 1983. I remember coming through the arrival gate at Jan Smits airport in Johannesburg recalling the television pictures of the rebel England cricket team arriving amid so much controversy the previous year and wondering if I’d done the right thing. I left five days later knowing we had all done the right thing by totally ignoring all the restrictions that had been imposed on the black population. I received some pretty scary letters after pictures appeared of me sitting on a motorbike surrounded by the black workers at the Kylami circuit.

The Chang International Circuit is the 28th different venue to stage a Grand Prix event since the four-stroke MotoGP™ era started in 2002. With the addition of Thailand to the schedule, the 19 event 2018 season is the longest in the 70 year history of the sport. I’m sure it will come as no great surprise it will be the 37th different circuit where Valentino Rossi has competed at a Grand Prix event – he’s never had time to be bored.

By | October 5th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Fresh pastures